Asgardia, a proposed “space nation,” inaugurated its first head of state Monday during a ceremony at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria, which was attended by diplomats, researchers, engineers and legal experts from around the world.
The new head of nation, Igor Ashurbeyli—a Russian scientist, billionaire and philanthropist—took an oath of office during an event with no shortage of pomp and circumstance. He went on to unveil ambitious goals for the first space nation: notably, to have permanently inhabited space stations in low Earth orbit and stationary settlements on the Moon within the next 25 years.
"We have established all branches of a nation," Ashurbeyli said in a speech at the ceremony. "I can declare that Asgardia has been born."
Asgardia—named after Asgard, a sky city in Norse mythology which was said to house the gods—was founded by Ashurbeyli and several prominent space experts in October 2016. The aim of the project is to “create a free independent nation outside of planet Earth” with “equal access to space for all people regardless of the country of origin, nationality, location, age, gender, sex, race, etc.”
Currently, the international Outer Space Treaty requires governments to authorize and supervise all space activities, including those of commercial and non-profit organizations. The founders of Asgardia hope to avoid the tight restrictions that this system imposes.
“Access to outer space should be a human right, beyond the control of any Earthly nation,” Ashurbeyli, who is also head of the UNESCO Commission on Space Science, said in a statement.
“We believe that the creation of a new legal platform for the exploration of near-Earth and deep space is crucial to keep pace with humanity’s rapid technological and scientific expansion off-planet.”
Aside from the long-term objective of setting up habitable platforms in space, Asgardia has a number of other goals. These include ensuring the peaceful use of space and preventing future space wars; protecting the Earth from space hazards, such as large asteroids; and creating a platform for scientific research.
Ultimately, Asgardia hopes to apply to the United Nations as a fully fledged nation-state. It has already made its first foray into space with the launch of the Asgardia-1 satellite in December 2017, which it regards as sovereign territory.
Some legal experts have questioned the validity of this claim because Asgardia has not yet been recognized as an independent state. Nevertheless, since its establishment, Asgardia has adopted a constitution, flag and national anthem, and is also developing a bank and its own cryptocurrency system, called SOLAR.
People from around the world have been invited to register online for Asgardian citizenship. So far, the number of individuals that have signed up stands at around 200,000—although the aim is not to move all of these members into space.
Asgardia has even held parliamentary elections during which 140 representatives were chosen, while it is also in the process of forming various governmental bodies. These will be responsible for different aspects of the running of the state.
At the ceremony, Ashurbeyli also announced details regarding the development of Asgardia’s infrastructure and economy.
"Asgardia will build an infrastructure that is independent from ground-based systems on Earth," Ashurbeyli said in his speech. "Asgardians will carry handheld devices with integrated passports, credit cards and conventional smartphones."
"A network of low-earth orbit satellites will be deployed delivering global internet coverage," he added. "Core satellites will be placed in high-earth orbit providing a full range of digital services to Asgardian citizens and businesses, as well as free access to space technologies for earthlings regardless of their nationality on earth."
Furthermore, he outlined how Asgardia planned to deploy a space fleet to defend Earth from threats emanating from outer space and how the nation would achieve recognition from other states.
"Asgardia will achieve recognition as an independent space state by means of bilateral agreements with as many states on earth as possible, as well as accession to international organizations both intergovernmental and non-governmental," he said.
Exactly how Asgardia will achieve all of its lofty goals is unclear at present, with plans still in their embryonic stages. What is clear is that the space nation will require vast amounts of money to fund its ventures.
But if it can achieve its aims, Ashurbeyli sees Asgardia as a safeguard for humanity's future.
"Outer space is endless and space exploration will give homo sapiens the chance to become immortal as a species," he concluded.